Gaza: Palestinian 'solidarity' march in Preston will mean city centre road closures
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The event - being staged under the banner “Preston for Palestine” - is described as a peaceful demonstration. Its passage will see a series of rolling road closures put in place along the circular route.
The Preston-based Children of the Ghetto group organised a similarly-themed rally on the Flag Market earlier this month, which they estimated was attended by around 3,000 people. They are hopeful that similar numbers will be drawn to this weekend’s procession, which will leave the Flag Market at 1.30pm.
It will then take in Birley Street, Earl Street, Lancaster Road, Lune Street, Friargate and Fishergate - before returning to the Flag Market for another rally for the rest of the afternoon. The whole event is expected to end at around 4.30pm.
Preston City Council chief executive Adrian Phillips said that traffic management measures had been arranged by the organisers in order to ensure “the minimum disruption” to the normal operation of the city.
He added that the authority had sought “to enable the event to pass safely” and said that only minor inconvenience was expected, because the roads will be closed just for the duration of the procession.
Michael Lavalette, one of the march organisers and a former Preston city councillor, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he believed similar events that had been held across the UK and around the world in recent weeks were influencing the thinking of foreign policymakers across the globe.
“Three weeks ago, when this latest phase started, the British and American governments and the European Union were saying they were all behind Israel - and that it could do whatever it wanted, [because] they were not going to call for a ceasefire
“I think they have been shocked at the size and scale of the demonstrations [which have been] saying that this killing of innocent children has to stop; and it has brought real pressure, because all of those [leaders] have moved.
“Rishi Sunak was the cheerleader [for Israel], but even he’s now saying we need to have a humanitarian pause. My view is that if people hadn't been out on the streets, none of that would have happened,” Michael added.
Israel mounted a military air campaign over the Gaza Strip following the slaughter of more than 1,300 of its citizens - and the kidnap of over 200 others - by Hamas, the group that controls the tiny territory. The organisation is a proscribed terror group in the UK and elsewhere and Israel has vowed to destroy it in response to the 7th October attacks within its borders
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says that more than 6,700 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes in the less than three weeks since.
Israel has also declared its intention to send ground troops into Gaza, while Western governments have strongly supported the Jewish state’s right to defend itself.
However, earlier this week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for “specific pauses” in the fighting in order to allow vital aid into the Gaza Strip. He was backed by Labour opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer - but both men stopped short of calling for a full ceasefire.